Tuesday 17 November 2009

Review: Harry Brown

Year: 2009
Director: Daniel Barber
Screenplay: Gary Young
Starring: Micheal Caine, Emily Mortimer, Sean Harris, Liam Cunningham, Jack O'Connell

"An eye for an eye makes everyone blind" - Gandhi

At one point within Harry Brown, one of the films teenage villains, sounds off at the police about their inability to do anything when his brother was stabbed. Because of this he has decided to "tool up" in case anyone "steps" to him. Another point, one of the police detectives is happy that a vigilante is doing the dirty business of cleaning the scum off the streets. Chavy Kids who cause violence because it has happened to them should get shot, while grieving pensioners who are fed up with violence on the estate and have decided to kill because justice hasn't been done, gets to walk through the underpass again.

Harry Brown is overcooked, rabble rousing nonsense that hides a quieter, more powerful film within it. In watching the films earlier scenes, we see a man consumed by grief and strive, wonderfully portrayed by the now ever reliable Caine who can hold an audiences attention with merely a glance. Caine's Brown says a little but conveys much, and anyone who wishes to be an actor should really look at the first act of this film. This is how it's done.

It's a shame that the louder the film gets, the duller it becomes, as Gary Young's exaggerated screenplay leads us to believe that skag addicts stoned out of their gord on speedballs can maintain a vast garden of 7 foot high ganja plants as if they were Alan Titchmarsh. It's moments like this that belay what little intelligence Harry Brown really has.

Compared by some to be a companion piece to Gran Torino, Harry Brown is merely a lazy update of death wish that wishes to be important. While Gran Torino has a glossy Hollywood sheen that can only come from a movie like that, at least it was willing to show an interesting message; redemption through education. While the film is highly unlikely at least it has a moral center to it. HB utilizes sympathy to side with a character whose doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. When we meet Brown he has lost his wife and soon loses his friend, the problem is (small spoiler) the reason he lose his friend is HIS FUCKING FRIENDS FAULT. It then became every hard for me to elicit any feeling after Brown find this nugget of information out, because while these yobs are despicable, his friend caused his own downfall. However if this was an estate kid...many would hoot and holler at the stupidity of his demise.

Of course, Micheal Caine impasses all those aspects of Britishiness that middle England would root for in a film like this and of course the idea of Brown brutalising little shits because he's giving them what for, makes his wrong justice passable.

Moral ethics and issues aside, the film fails for me due to it's inability to keep it's tone as well as it's contrived ending and sub-par sub-plots. In my opinion the film would have been stronger from a socially-economic view if the screenplay concentrated on the police (and criminal) side of affairs instead of leaving them as a handy scape goat for daily mail reading viewers. Instead what we get a silly media goading revenge movie which doesn't hold a candle to the brilliant Dead Man's Shoes, a film which effectively deals with the outcome of vigilantism.

Many will disagree and that's fine, but for me Harry Brown should have been a much more complex film than just Micheal Caine dishing out rich creamy justice. If you watch those opening scenes, you may just agree with me.

Hear Byron talk more about this movie at Geekplanetonline

R.I.P Edward Woodard 1930 - 2009

From his well loved 1984 television series The Equalizer to his recent performances in Hot Fuzz and Eastenders. Woodward was considered a professional to the very end. I wish his family well.

To me he will always be immortalized as stern, repressed Sergeant Howie in the brilliant 1973 the Wicker Man. Mr Woodard, I salute you.